Activating Alabama artists online:
a digital performance series

ARTWORKS@THEDJD

The Dorothy Jemison Day Theater (DJD) at Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) proudly announces ArtWorks@TheDJD, a new digital performance series premiering in January of 2021. Due to the spread of COVID-19, The DJD Theater has been unable to offer in-person events and performances on its stage since March of 2020. This series continues the theater’s mission of bringing the arts to our local and state community and supporting artists.

The series creates world premiere original, short-form content, presented virtually. The works challenge and speak to our world, our moment in time, and our community. John Manzelli DJD General Manager, says, “We are proud to present a series that supports and promotes the extraordinary work of three accomplished and diverse Birmingham artists. It’s our way of supporting the community by using our facilities and resources to create commissioned virtual works of art that will be accessible to everyone in the state of Alabama, free of charge.”

The DJD Theater team considered many high caliber candidates for grant support. The chosen artists include Spoken Word Poet Jahman Ariel Hill (sponsored by V94.9 and Publix Charities), Musician Hellen Weberpal (sponsored by Birmingham Investment Group and Publix Charities), and Pioneer Artist Yogi Dada (sponsored by V94.5 and Publix Charities). These artists have turned their artistic visions into 3 trailblazing short films that blend music, dance, poetry, and art. Their works premiered free of charge on the DJD website for a limited time.

Help us support artists

In lieu of ticket sales, please consider making a small donation to help us continue bringing these programs to our community:

YOGI DADA

Sponsored by V94.9 & Publix Charities

ArtWorks@TheDJD artist statement: “GRAFFICA” came forth in quietness. The manifestation of spiritual genetics and environment. The concept emerged this Fall as I sat drawing quietly on the floor, during the pandemic, house sitting for a friend. An Artist known for brilliant colors, my emotional bandwidth only left room for simplicity, black ink on white paper. Reflecting on the quiet world around me, I found my freedom in ethnicity and urban influence. As I created in freeform, amazing humanoid beings came forth, African masks meets graffiti. These are my comfort zones; I knew my style deserved a name. “GRAFFICA” rolled out of my mouth. My style is about surprising myself with unexpected turns, patterns, geometric shapes and fluidity. I cannot be wrong or right in my creation because I am. Every stroke is the rhythm of Africa, every pattern the complexity of graffiti. I expanded my study in black and white to canvas and found a recurring experience, challenge. Challenge in telling the story of my mind without the comfort of color. Challenge to transfer what I feel to what I see in black and white. It was agonizing and beautiful. Beautiful pain is my hallmark of growth and stretching myself. This is the legacy of a being, a young girl, a black girl, growing up in upstate New York who fancied herself to grow up to be an Artist one day. My journey has been divinely peculiar, difficult and remarkable. Welcome to a world where the fundamentals of being my true self were uncovered and celebrated, in a place called “GRAFFICA”.

Learn more about Yogi Dada and purchase the artworks of “Graffica” and themed apparel at:

hELLEN WEBERPAL

Sponsored by Birmingham Investment Group & Publix Charities

ArtWorks@TheDJD artist statement: Most people who know me well know that my two favorite things to do at this point in my life are seemingly contradictory. I spent over 20 years practicing the cello so I could be a strong enough player to win an orchestra job, and all of that practicing was done inside in a practice room. So maybe it was something about winning my first tenure-track job with the Alabama Symphony, or being an Illinois-native who got to see hills for the first time, but I was delighted by the scenery from the very moment I drove into Birmingham to make this place my home, and I was so excited to spend some time outdoors here! Soon after I arrived, I took up outdoor rock climbing and bouldering while also performing with ASO. I was drawn to the community built around rock climbing, and I was stunned by the amazing rock formations and bluff lines that make up many areas of this state.

Of course, everything changed when Covid-19 hit. The orchestra stopped playing for almost 9 months, and it left me with a lot of doubt about what the future of a professional cellist would look like. I ended up spending a lot of my time (not teaching zoom lessons) climbing outside in some of my favorite spots.

The more I climbed, the more I started to notice the similarities of learning to climb with playing the cello… There can be so much elegance in the way a climber’s body moves. It struck me as very similar to dance. To climb something well, a person has to know how to balance the body and move slowly, with purpose. Also, there are so many different ways to climb a rock, just like the infinite ways to play a musical phrase.

All of this inspired me to combine the two things I love so much and treat climbing almost like a ballet, with music written specifically for: the movements a climber makes on the boulder or rock face, the emotions going through the climber’s mind during an ascent and, in some cases, the actual shapes of the rocks themselves. I also wanted to draw attention to the gorgeous Alabama landscape, and encourage others to get out and explore everything this state has to offer.

I chose solo cello as the instrumentation because, during covid, it’s something I knew I could play and rehearse all by myself, and the solo idea seemed to fit well into a year where there has been so much solitude. I’m so thankful to the DJD at ASFA for this opportunity, especially during a time where I wasn’t sure I was really going to accomplish much with all the concert halls shutting down for awhile. This project allowed me to get out of that difficult space and really try to make something happen that is truly unique and so very myself. It has been an extremely cathartic experience I won’t forget. I also wanted to say a thank-you to my friends from Birmingham Boulders who gave me belays while I was working on Misty at Sand Rock: Tasha Curiel, John Pellerin, and Shane Thompson; and my friend Taylor Anderson who helped with sound editing.

JAHMAN ARIEL HILL

Sponsored by V94.9 and Publix Charities

ArtWorks@TheDJD artist statement: Vanderwaal’s Journey is a story for Black folk, by Black folk. And that’s beautiful.

Jahman Ariel Hill is an award-winning playwright, poet, and professor. Recognized as one of the top slam poets in the world, his poetry videos have garnered millions of views online. As a playwright, his first work, “Black Enough,” played Off-Broadway. Jahman’s project will involve creative writing with a theatrical performance. He will, “explore themes of safety, race, and health in a Black sci-fi infused reflection of our community’s experience facing COVID-19.”

“We are proud to present ArtWorks@TheDJD – a series that supports and promotes the extraordinary work of three accomplished and diverse Birmingham artists. It’s our way of supporting the community by using our facilities and resources to create commissioned virtual works of art that will be accessible to everyone in the state of Alabama, free of charge.”

John Manzelli
Director of the DJD Theater

support BIRMINGHAM ARTISTS

The DJD Theater team, in conjunction with Publix Charities, V94.5 and Birmingham Investment Group, worked hard to bring ArtWorks@TheDJD free to the community amidst the global pandemic. This grant program’s premiere will be presented online in order to ensure the safety of our artists, staff, and audience. Moving forward, we aim to bring this program to the DJD Theater stage and beyond in our community.

Supporting artists in our community is at the forefront of our mission, and we hope to be able to continue this artist grant program going forward. Your support directly supports the visionaries in our community. Please consider a donation to support the DJD in lieu of purchasing tickets for our artist premieres. The DJD Theater is part of the Alabama School of Fine Arts Foundation, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, and all gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

ArtWorks@TheDJD Press Release

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2020
Contact:
Katie Roach
(M)205.563.6390
kdudley@asfa.k12.al.us

Cutting Edge Digital Performance Series
ArtWorks@TheDJD: premiering January 2021

The Dorothy Jemison Day Theater (DJD) at Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) proudly announces ArtWorks@TheDJD, a new digital performance series premiering in January of 2021. The ArtWorks@TheDJD series is sponsored, in part, by v94.5, Publix Super Market Charities, and Birmingham Investment Group. Due to the spread of COVID-19, The DJD Theater has been unable to offer in-person events and performances on its stage since March of 2020. This series continues the theater’s mission of bringing the arts to our local and state community and supporting artists.

The series creates world premiere original, short-form content, presented virtually. The works challenge and speak to our world, our moment in time, and our community. John Manzelli DJD General Manager, says, “We are proud to present a series that supports and promotes the extraordinary work of three accomplished and diverse Birmingham artists. It’s our way of supporting the community by using our facilities and resources to create commissioned virtual works of art that will be accessible to everyone in the state of Alabama, free of charge.”

The DJD Theater put out a call for performing and visual artists to create unique works of art for the series with one-time commissioning grants and production capabilities. A large pool of high-caliber applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds, mediums, and visions applied.

The ArtWorks@TheDJD team selected artists Yogi Dada, Hellen Weberpal, and Jahman Ariel Hill for the inaugural series. The DJD production team is collaborating with these artists to digitally produce and premiere their works. The multi-medium projects will premiere in January 2021.

The Artists
Jahman Ariel Hill – Sponsored by Publix Charities
Hill is an award-winning playwright, poet, and professor. Recognized as one of the top slam poets in the world, his poetry videos have garnered millions of views online. As a playwright, his first work, “Black Enough,” played Off-Broadway. Hill’s project will involve creative writing with a theatrical performance. He will, “explore themes of safety, race, and health in a Black sci-fi infused reflection of our community’s experience facing COVID-19.”

Hellen Weberpal – Sponsored by Birmingham Investment Group & and Publix Charities
Hellen Weberpal is a cellist with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Cahaba River Strings. She has also played and performed outreach with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Grand Opera and Ballet. Weperpal says, “I’m excited to create a project I don’t think anyone has ever done before – the composition of a piece for solo cello in three movements to be played along with the viewing of three different rock climbs.”

Yogi Dada – Sponsored by Publix Charities
Yogi Dada is a visual artist, speaker, poet, and musician. Dada says the intent of her series is, “… creating in the moment. My influences come from my ethnicity, spirituality and environment. As an artist known for my vibrant colors, working in black and white has been a different creative space of positive and negative energy, a new language in storytelling.”

Follow The DJD Theater online to see updates on our artist’s progress, more insight into their inspiring visions, and updates on premiere information. This series of three performances will premiere starting in January 2021 on The DJD Theater’s website (www.djdtheater.com) and streamed on the theater’s social channels (Facebook: @djdtheater, Instagram: @djdtheater).

John Manzelli, DJD General Manager
Dorothy Jemison Day (DJD) Theater
800 19th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
T: 205.458.0360
www.djdtheater.com

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